Italians Reclaim Crucifixes, Germans Defy Sex Ed, Baylor Diversifies Board
Churches no longer a surrender option
The U.S. Marshals Service has canceled a program that let U.S. fugitives surrender at churches because it didn't fit the service's mission. More than 34,000 nonviolent fugitives in 20 cities surrendered through Fugitive Safe Surrender since 2005 when the program started in Cleveland. The program, which costs $250,000 annually, paired U.S. marshals with churches in scheduled events where fugitives could surrender in neutral church environments and be tried for crimes. A spokesman for the Marshals Service said funding for the program was dropped because the service wants to target violent crime.
Baylor allows non-Baptist board members
The governing board of Baylor University, the largest Baptist institution in the world, can now comprise 25 percent non-Baptist Christians. The change means non-Baptist students—the majority of Baylor's student body—can be represented in governance, according to regent chairman Dary Stone. The Baptist General Convention of Texas will still elect 25 percent of the board and will continue to provide $2.8 million of Baylor's annual operating budget.
Jailed missionary released
HAITI A U.S. missionary jailed in October over a property dispute was released after five months in jail. Danny Pye had lived in Haiti since 2004 and ran an orphanage in southern Haiti. Pye complied with judges' orders and signed over assets a few days after being jailed, yet was subsequently held "pending investigation," allowed for up to 90 days in Haitian prisons. He returned to his home in Florida in time to see his wife give birth to their second child.
University president pleads guilty to fraud, resigns
Palm Beach Atlantic University president Lu Hardin resigned suddenly in mid-March, three days before a court appearance where he pled guilty to wire fraud and money laundering. Hardin, who previously served as president of University of Central Arkansas for six years, could face 20 years in prison for forging a letter to UCA's board of trustees saying the school could give him a yearly $200,000 bonus. Hardin will be sentenced in late spring or early summer. Palm Beach Atlantic University named vice president of development Bill Fleming as interim president.
Foster agencies scrutinized
Religious foster care agencies in Illinois are under investigation for possibly breaking anti-discrimination laws by turning away potential foster parents who are gay. Lutheran Child and Family Services (LCFS), Catholic Charities, and Evangelical Child and Family Agency could lose state funding if the Illinois attorney general and other investigators decide the agencies are in violation. LCFS said if necessary it would change its policy to serve gay couples in order to retain state funding; Catholic Charities in Washington D.C. and Boston closed long-running foster care programs following similar discrimination claims. The investigation started after a gay couple was turned down as adoptive parents for a child last fall; defenders say Illinois has more than 50 other foster agencies that license gay couples.
Church may go under receivership
A Kansas City megachurch may go under receivership at the request of the bank that filed a foreclosure petition against it. First Family Church, a $6.8 million-budget church with more than 4,000 members, pays its pastor a $400,000 annual salary and pays an additional $515,000 to family members of the pastor, according to documents from Regions Bank. Such a salary would be more than twice the typical salary at similarly sized churches, according to the National Association of Church Business Administration. First Family currently owes Regions Bank, which requested the receivership, $14.4 million in loans.